Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Friday, with the major averages having difficulty sustaining any significant moves. The choppy trading comes as traders digest some weak employment that came roughly in line with economist estimates.
Before the market open, the Labor Department said that non-farm payroll employment fell by 663,000 jobs in March following an unrevised decrease of 651,000 jobs in February. The drop in jobs came roughly in line with economists' expectations of a decrease of 658,000 levels.
With the continued decrease in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in the previous month, in line with expectations. The increase lifted the unemployment rate to its highest level since November of 1983.
While the report points to continued weakness in the labor market, some investors were pleased that it did not show a notable surprise to the downside. Others feel that the weakness was already priced into the markets, as employment data is seen as a lagging indicator.
Separately, the Institute for Supply Management released its report on activity in the service sector for March, showing that its index of activity in the sector unexpectedly fell to 40.8 in March from 41.6 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is currently speaking at the Richmond Fed's Credit Markets Symposium in Charlotte, NC.
The major averages have moved to the upside in recent trading, with the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 climbing back above the unchanged line. While the Dow is currently down 8.44 at 7,969.64, the Nasdaq is up 6.11 at 1,608.74 and the S&P 500 is up 0.99 at 835.37.
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